Why I Didn’t Invite Anyone to the Birth of My Child
By Megan Wood
Photo © @mama_hen/Twenty20
Oct 1, 2019
“Who’s going to be at the birth?”
“How soon is your mum coming?”
“Your husband is going back to work after three days!?”
Most parents will tell you that the sheer number of questions you get while pregnant can be overwhelming.
Want to read about more birth stories? Check them out here.
Often I’d bite back with an almost automatic retort: “It’s none of your business.” Because that's how I felt.
But for some reason, rocking a giant belly can make you feel like public property to many. And worse, people seem to think they have a right to have their very personal questions answered.
Even though I love people — I work with people and for people, and I can hardly name a person I dislike — I still found the constant questioning to be exhausting. But pretty soon the questions would stop, because we had a plan. It wasn't a popular one, but we had one.
Four years ago my husband and I packed our bags and moved from the east coast to the Northwest Territories (NT). We didn’t have any family there, but we had each other. A lot of people scoffed and said we’d be back in a year or we’d never last the winter. Some were downright confused as to why we’d ever want to do such a thing.
When I became pregnant, people wondered if I’d want to go back east. I heard, “But you have no family there, you’ll need help with the baby!”
So, my husband and I sat down to have a discussion about pregnancy, birth and raising our children in the NT — without our family — and we agreed on some unpopular decisions.
Our Unpopular Decisions
- We would have our baby in the NT.
- Only my husband and I (along with medical staff of course) would be present for the birth.
- My husband would take his three days given to him by work to help us settle in at home.
- Family was welcome to fly to us and visit after we’d had at least two weeks to settle in as a family, no sooner.
None of our decisions felt unreasonable, but here's what our family imagined.
Our Family Projections
They were seeing me exhausted, tired and sore with a husband who — after only a few days — returned to work.
They saw me alone at home without help, struggling. And counting down the hours until my husband returned to me.
But here's what we saw happening: an uninterrupted birth where we bonded as a new family for the first time, where no one waited at the door to see the baby.
I wouldn't have to get out of bed and make myself presentable for the guests only hours after my body had been ripped apart (let’s be honest folks, this is what happens).
We'd have two glorious weeks where we'd get to snuggle and get to know this new tiny person in our lives — a time where we'd set the foundation and tone of new parenthood for ourselves.
What having a baby really looked like was somewhere in the middle.
Sometimes I was lonely.
Sometimes hormones got the better of me. They are a beast and anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. They made me happy, sad and they also made me feel like the most powerful woman in the world. And in the next breath, I felt like a failure.
Ultimately, through the hormones and the loneliness, I am mostly grateful that we had that time as a family and that we put boundaries in place with our friends and family. I felt like we protected that time as our own.
An Argument for Scaling Back
I often hear about women having an entire audience at their birth — their mother, their father, their mother-in-law, grandmother, sister, best friend, etc. Everyone's invited.
I can admire the selflessness and vulnerability, but why? Am I missing something? They are doing it for others, sure, but is this crowd of people moments after birth for them, too? Maybe, but I don't know. I benefited from the quiet.
I am not saying that you shouldn’t accept help. I am saying that when it’s childbirth — a vulnerable, important, life-changing event — that you need to be able to define who you want there, why you want them there and when you want them there. I am saying that it’s important to do what is best for you, the new parents, and not what’s best for everyone else.
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Yes, their feelings are important. But yours are more important. This is a time to be selfish. I allowed myself to be OK with that.
My parents came to the NT two weeks after our daughter was born. I appreciated their help and we all had a fabulous time. Most importantly, I felt ready for them to see us, I felt bonded with my child and I was glad we’d been alone for those two weeks to discover us, as a family.
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